Sunday, July 24, 2005

Saturday 7/23/05

From the department of things that totally suck: it was 97 degrees yesterday. This is how Hazel and her friend, Maddy, spent the day:

Mike, Shane and I piledrived a twelve-pack while sweating into the leather furniture. Zoe tried to keep cool by drinking the water from the kiddie pool, then retired to the bathroom floor to lean up against the (nice, cool, ceramic) toilet.

Yep, it was a rough one.

Part of the fun of having kids...

... is being able to dress them like this.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Battle of the (non) Bulge

I love food. My dad likes to say that my mom's side of the family "eats for sport," and I definitely take after that side. I truly enjoy a good meal, a good drink, a good dessert. I take pleasure in taste and texture, which is why I now have 50 freaking post-partum pounds to lose... but that's a whole new ball of wax.

So how is it that most of the toddlers I know, Hazel included, survive on air? How is that possible? How (and why?) could you pass up a free, hot meal that someone else has made for you, out of the freshest organic ingredients that she could find, time and time again? And why don't I have that kind of willpower??

Once, at a kid's birthday party I attended, way before I had kids, I saw a little girl, probably about Hazel's age now, drop a dixie cup full of goldfish crackers on the floor. Without hesitation, the little girl scooped them all back up into her grubby little cup, and kept on munching. I was disgusted. "Gross!" I thought. "When I have kids, I'm never letting them eat goldfish crackers, much less eat them off the floor!"

Predictably, I would now rejoice if Hazel ate that much. Hell, I'd pour more goldfish on the floor in hopes that she'd eat those too - then offer her dessert! As it stands now, unless what I'm offering Hazel is something she truly loves to eat, she's got no interest in it. She can live on one meal a day if she has to, and she'd rather trade that one measly meal in for a cup of rice milk, no contest. Her list of stand-by, tried-and-true foods that she'll always eat, is always shrinking. This month it's:

- Chicken nuggets
- Pizza
- Quiche (I know, quiche?)
- Cheese (highly favored are smoked Gouda and french Feta)
- Fruit (not oranges, though)
- Peas
- Rice w/ beans
- Tofu
- Green olives
- Mac n' cheese

It's such a drag to eat with Hazel, because she doesn't enjoy the process. I have to play Food Police, corraling her back into her chair every two minutes, reminding her not to take such big bites that she gags and spits everything out, enforcing the "you can't just have milk for breakfast/lunch/dinner" rule. Lately, I've taken to just leaving a plate of reasonably healthy snacks out on her kiddie table in the living room, and just letting her graze on it throughout the morning or afternoon. It's just such a hassle to force her to sit at the table like a human being. I'd rather not deal with it until dinner time, when the whole family can be together, and I can make Mike be Food Police.

The fact that Hazel does not eat shows on her body. The last time she hopped on the scale, she weighed in at a whopping 26 pounds, which means she's gained one pound in one year, whilst she grew almost 3 inches. The shorts that she wore last summer are laughably short on her, but they still fall off of her non-existant butt. What child of mine has no butt?! It's absurd. I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm her real mother.

I like to think that the day is coming when she'll eat the chocolate chip cookies she makes with me (what kid doesn't like chocolate??), or ask for a second helping of... anything. But more likely, I think, she'll take after her Uncle Kyle, who, at the age of 20, has never tried a hamburger. Sigh. Maybe I'll have more luck with Violet.

Monday, July 18, 2005

L'artiste de la maison

In the space of about a week, Hazel's drawing skills have progressed from the random smears and sqiggles in the top photo, to the "people" in the bottom photo, which, if I may say so, actually look like people! As she's painting, she says "...and eyes, for seeing, and a forehead so he looks like Dada, and arms for hugging, and a mouth, for smiles!"

Friday, July 15, 2005

Household Vernacular: A Rough Guide

In case you ever get called upon to babysit for us (PLEASE, come babysit for us!!!), here's a Hazel-speak to English translator. It will be updated as required.

Translation: Hazel's word for anything little, or small in stature. Can also refer to her kid-size table in the living room.
Usage: "Do you want a big piece of pizza or a peep peep one?" or "Please take your snack off the coffee table and put it on the peep peep."


Translation: Pajamas
Origin: Was introduced to Hazel by one of Mike's oldest and dearest friends, the wonderful Harry Bartelt, who Hazel was amazingly sweet on.

Harry: "Whatchya doin, Hazel? Putting your jim jams on?"
Hazel: "Jim jams!? JIM JAMS!!? He called the PJ's jim jams!!! HAHAHAHAAAAA!"

Evolved into "pa-jim-jams" sometime after Harry left.


Translation: A rubber duckie; any rubber duckie, whether it be one of the three in the bathtub, or the giant one in the window at Old Navy.
Usage: "Can we give the weebos a bath in the sink?" or "Let's go to the weebo store!"


Translation: Dog
Origin: Sort of convoluted. In a nutshell, the taquerias in SF list "shrimp" in the menus as "shrims." When Zoe curls up, head to paws, to go to sleep, she looks like a shrimp or "shrim."
Usage: "Look at the cute shrims in the car!" or "NO, Hosie, cookies are NOT for shrims!"


See also: Shrim
Alternatives: Hozo, Zozie, Shrimp Toast, Honaka San.
Translation: Zoe
Usage: "NO, Hosie, OFF!" or "I love you, Hosie."


Alternatives: Herbie, Sally, Jennifer, Zee.
Translation: Hazel herself. She has several alter-egos, most of which are characters from books she's read or DVDs she's seen. Can go from "Suzy" to "Sally" or "Herbie" without notice. Must be addressed accordingly.

Me: "Hazel, bath time."
Hazel/Suzy: "SUZY, bath time."
Me: "Oh, sorry. SUZY, bath time."
Hazel/Suzy: "Suzy doesn't take baths!"


Alternatives: Viley, Vilulah, Vilis, Baby-baby, Sister.
Translation: Violet
Usage: "Did Vi-loo poop again?"


Translation: Butt
Usage: "My biscuits are cold!" or "Can I have biscuits today?" (which requires it's own translation - "Can I go commando today?")

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Karaoke Queen

Hazel's favorite passtime is karaoke. She doesn't know that's what it's called, but that's what she does, pretty much all day long. She's not really much of an outside girl - she likes to water the flowers and play in her playhouse, and that's about it. I have to talk her into going to the park or the library. Occasionally, I resort to bribing her, if I'm really craving outside activity and she's bent on her own familiar agenda: karaoke.

She has six CDs in her regular rotation; two are by Dan Zanes and the other four are by Laurie Berkner. She can be convinced to mix thing up a little by throwing on some Bob Marley, a staple of her infancy, some Toots and the Maytals, or maybe even some Wilco, but after a couple of songs, it's back to the usual.

I don't mind the Dan Zanes CDs at all - in fact, I love them. All the songs on all his albums are standards, written by old folk artists like Woody Guthrie, and all the music is arranged by Dan. He incorporates human beat boxers, tubas, accordians, pedal steel guitars and guest singers like Deborah Harry, Lou Reed and Rankin' Don, a dancehall superstar. Dan doesn't condescend to his target demographic, but rather he expands their minds through really thoughtful, creative, innovative music. It's music that kids enjoy without being kid's music. Big difference.

Laurie Berkner is... well, what you'd expect from a person who makes kid's music. I don't know what the producers and sound engineers over at Noggin did, but her songs sounds about a thousand times better there than they do on CD. She can be a little grating, with her semi-yodels and frantic cheerfulness, but she does have some great, catchy songs. She must be doing something right, cuz Hazel listens to her night and day, like a junkie.

Hazel likes to listen to one or two songs at a time, memorize the lyrics, then move on. She will literally listen to one song 100 times in a day. I am not exaggerating, as anyone who went through the "Hit the Road, Jack" phase with us can testify to. She stands, facing the stereo, in a trance-like state, with her feet planted and her knees bending to the beat. She bobs her head around and either claps along or keeps her arms still, depending on how hard she's concentrating on the words. When the song ends, she repeats it. And repeats it. When she feels confident that she's learned most of the song, she cranks up the volume and cuts loose, dancing, singing at the top of her lungs (on key!) and jumping on the furniture.

Although I frequently curse myself for teaching Hazel how to operate the CD player, I enjoy having a kid who appreciates music as much as Mike and I do. She even likes Mike's band, Las Pulgas, and knows all the words (of course) to their versions of "California Stars" and "Molly's Lips." Hazel is our punk rock girl. She's gonna kick ass at the karaoke bars in college.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Confessions of a Proud Slacker

Violet is already starting to lose that tiny-infant look. She's starting to look like an actual person - you know what I mean? Her squished up tiny-infant face is opening and brightening. Her tiny-infant cries are giving way to coos and huge smiles, and she's already trying so hard to be part of whatever's going on in the room. She stayed awake all through playgroup today, from about 10:30 to 1:00, just watching and listening to the big girls.

When Hazel was a baby, I couldn't wait for her to get to the next stage, whatever that was. Part of that was being excited about watching her grow and develop new skills, and part of that, I realize now, was me hoping that this motherhood gig would somehow be a little easier, if only she could sit up on her own, or crawl around and amuse herself, or whatever.

I was such an amature.

Now I know that this motherhood gig does not ever get any easier, whether you have one kid or five, whether they're infants or adults. And that knowledge makes it easier for me to really enjoy Violet's infancy. Well, that and the fact that Violet is a pretty easy going baby. She lets me know if she wants to be held, or burped or put down, but most of the time, she's pretty chill. Waaaaaaaay more chill than Hazel was as a baby, or is now, quite frankly, and I'm not saying one is better than the other, I'm just saying. She's got the zen thing down and thankfully so, because otherwise nothing would get done around this place, although very little gets done around this place as it is, and I heap the blame on the relatively blameless baby regardless. That's just the kind of mom I am.

Our pediatrician likes to say "everyone should have a second baby first." It's so true! Everything, from the birth and recovery, to figuring out how to get a shower or schlep your whole sideshow out the door for some desperately needed time with other adults, is easier. Or rather, not as big a deal (I feel I should clarify here, lest you assume that I've got everything under control, that it is not easy - just easier), than it was the first go around. I learned really fast that I have to let that which does not truly matter, truly slide. Rice from last night's dinner on the floor? Screw it. Haven't vaccumed up the dog hair, cookie crumbs, or sand from last weekend's BBQ yet? Screw it! Five loads of laundry in the garage and Hazel has dumped every single item of Violet's clothing on the floor (except for the size 0-3 months pants that she's wearing as shorts)? SCREW IT!! I know I can't keep up, so I don't feel guilty about not even trying. Those things would've really bothered me a year ago, and perhaps they would still bother me if I didn't have such low standards of cleanliness. But it was either lower my standards, or lose my freakin mind, and I feel like I made the right choice.

Here's what's really important to me, so I do it every day:

- I shower
- I drink really good, strong coffee
- I make my bed, because it looks pretty
- I dress my kids in clean clothes
- I water my plants and flowers
- I get some "creative time" at the computer
- I see or talk to at least one adult (excluding Mike)
- I read something, even if it's just one article in the a.m. paper

Pretty much everything else, can slide. I want to be a happy, relaxed mama for my girls, because I want happy, relaxed girls. Who cares that Hazel has covered herself in markers, or that Violet doesn't have a babybook yet? I mean, I care, but... I care more about enjoying myself and taking care of myself, and if that means slacking off in other departments, well... wait for it... SCREW IT!

I'm excited to see Violet grow and develop as I know she will, but I'm also really enjoying this speechless, immoblie tiny-infant part of her life, too. It's a wonderful, miraculous time, and I'm so thrilled to be a part of it. I'm going to bask in it for as long as I can, because I know it will be gone before I know it. The dirty laundry and sticky floors are just going to have to wait, because if I have to choose between them or spending quailty time in the kiddie pool in the backyard with my little ones, the laundry and floors are going to lose, every time.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Doin' the Haircut Hula

Hazel got a major haircut and a new grass skirt, all in the same day. Seriously, do kids come any cuter than this one? Come on!

A Rose... (or a Violet, or a Hazel)... By Any Other Name

I have been naming my children since I was about 10 years old. Maybe younger. I have always collected names in my head, and made lists of them; first names, first and middle names, alternate spellings and made up last names. I think I bought my first baby names book around age 12, and I distinctly remember sending my Cabbage Patch Preemie doll's 'birth certificate' back 3 different times before finally deciding on the name Vanessa.

It came as no suprise to anyone who's known me for a while that when it came time to name my girls, I had a helluva time.

When Mike and I first found out we were expecting Hazel, I knew it was a girl almost immediately. I don't know how or why, but I did. We tossed around a couple of boy's names just in case, but really, I was totally focused on naming a girl, and by the time I was 2 months pregnant, I had about 10 different lists of names going in my head (nature names, old-fashioned names, androgynous names... I could go on). The boy's name we chose was Asa, which I still really like. The girls names that were at the top of our joint list were Honey (well, that was really only on my list; Mike said it sounded like a stripper's name), Adelaide, Maya (which Mike liked more than I did), Mia and Zoe. We actually considered renaming the dog we like the name Zoe so much. And of course Hazel. When we found out that Hazel was a girl, and my early instincts were confirmed, about 3 seconds after the nurse performing the ultrasound announced "it's a girl," I turned to Mike and the name Hazel just popped out. She was Hazel from that second on, and I can hardly believe we ever considered anything else. She's SUCH a Hazel! She's an old-fashioned beauty, with her little flapper hairdo and her big, brown eyes. She's a quirky little firecracker one minute, and a dumure shy guy the next. She's a Hazel Elizabeth if I ever saw one.

When we found out we were expecting Violet 21 months later, I hoped it was a girl, but wasn't so sure. In fact, for while there, I was totally convinced she was a boy. We never got a definite "it IS a girl," though we had about 10 times as many ultrasounds with Violet as we did with Hazel. Violet was one of the first names I suggested to Mike and he liked it, but we wrote it off initially because we didn't want to seem like we had a baby-naming agenda (as in "both our girls must have botanical names that are also colors"). The other girls names we (and by "we" I mean mostly me) went through included Greer, Georgia, Clementine, Mathilda, Mae, Maeve, and Liv. We batted around boy's names that included Henry, Ronan, Harry, August, Beckett, Milo, Jonas and Owen. The doctors and nurses would never totally stand behind their "we're pretty sure it's a girl" statements, but I had a pretty good hunch, and though we were a little put off by the color combo of Hazel and Violet, we kept coming back to that name. I always pictured Violet as a dark haired girl and said that if she came out a redhead, we'd have to rethink our choice. When she came out with a full head of dark hair (that has since turned auburn, but that's a different story), Violet it was. And, of course, it fits her perfectly. She's a soft little flower, a vibrant and lovely girl, a mellow little blossom blooming under the hazelnut tree. Violet Olivia - absolutely.

Twice last week, I was asked by total strangers what my girls names were. The first time I answered the question, my answer was met with a smile and a compliment. The second time I answered the question, the lady who asked it opened her eyes up wide and said, "Oh! Those sure are... unique!" I just smiled back at her and thought to myself, why would I settle for anything less than unique for my beautiful babes? Hazel and Violet - the two most beautiful names in the world.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Zoe The Wonderdog

Pit bulls have had their fair share of bad press lately.

And I would be lying if I said that living in a small house with two small kids and a pit bull didn't give me a moment's pause, because as a mother and a pit bull owner, how could it not? But I have to hand it to Zoe, she has always been nothing but a sweet, tolerant, if a little overprotective, family pet. That is not to say that because she has always been sweet and tolerant, I live under the assumption that she always WILL be. Quite the contrary. In the wake of recent said press, we have contracted a dog trainer through the folks at B.A.D.R.A.P. to work with us on evaluating Zoe's personality/behavior, and to help us with her training, which we've really let lapse these last couple of kid-centered years (as anyone who's ever been bumrushed by Zoe at our front door can attest to). It will be good for her to have a little more discipline in her life, and good for us to treat her a little more like a pet, and a little less like a person.

It must be hard for Zoe to live in a house full of shrieking little girls. I'm sure she remembers a time not so long ago, when she was spoiled rotten, in relative peace and quiet. Hour long walks in the morning and evening, grooming at least once a month, dog treats galore and best of all, unlimited cuddling on the couch and in our bed. Now? Well, like many of the luxaries of pre-kid life, they have gone the way of the dodo. The walks are now 30-45 mintues in the evening only, and she's lucky if she gets groomed every three months (although she does get a weekly shower with Mike, and who wouldn't love that?). The dog treats are still around, but as I've tried to intigrate Hazel into Zoe's evening feeding routine, they are adminstered only after Hazel has run all over the house with them in an effort to get Zoe to play chase with her. The cuddling is the one pre-kid luxary of Zoe's life that still remains. She continues to think of our king sized bed as her own, and relishes the moment that Mike and I crawl into it with her every night, her tail thumping with joy even when she's asleep. She likes to cuddle with Mike best, as he's the top dog in her eyes, and I've woken up on many occasions to find the two of them under the covers, her head on his pillow.

Pit bulls are notoriously aggressive with other dogs - it's just in their nature. But to counterbalancing that is the part that compells them to work hard at pleasing their owners. Pits have an innate and intense desire to be part of a family, and succeed at doing whatever it is that that family wants them to do. This trait, combined with their natural dog-aggressive tendancies, has been exploited for many years by pit owners who are/were fond of dogfighting. But in most cases, and certainly in Zoe's case, this trait is what makes them such excellent family pets. Zoe's desire to love and be loved by her humans is palpable, and it's all too evident when she's walking down the street with all four of us, a huge smile on her face. Mike and I have made it very clear to Zoe that we expect her to handle Hazel and Violet with care - and she does. From the day we brought each of our babies home from the hospital, Zoe has loved and protected them. She loves all of their friends, too, and though she gets a little TOO excited when they first walk in the door (part of why we're reinstituting the training), by the time they've been here 20 minutes, Zoe has retired to a corner to keep an eye on all of them.

I am aware of the dangers of having a dog of any breed around small children. But I truly believe that dogs don't "just snap", and attack at random, for no reason, even pit bulls, and that ALL dogs around small kids should be watched closely for signs of anxiety or aggression. And if Zoe ever gave us any reason to be concerned about having her around, neither Mike nor I would hesitate to find a new home for her. It would break our hearts, but we would do it without reservation. But you know what? In the four years we've had the privelege of knowing Zoe, she has been a loving, goofy, sweet little clown. She has her faults (pulling on the leash, hogging the bed, barking at the mailman, eating the eyes off Hazel's stuffed animals), but she also has the softest little pancake ears in the world. She has bad breath, but she has an adorable smile. She's lazy as all get out, but never too tired to pass up a game of "grrr" with Hazel or go for a walk with her family. She's our shrimp, our Hosie, our little sweetheart. She's our goofynuts, our Coze Machine, our blockhead, and we're a happier family for having her around.

Family Dance

We've had a lot of company in our house this past week. My grandma (Haze and Vi's great grandma) hitched a ride up here from So. Cal last Saturday, the same day that two of my three brothers (Haze and Vi's Uncle Ty and Uncle Kyle) came up for a quick visit. Uncle Ty and Uncle Kyle left late Saturday night and my mom (Hazel and Vi's Nane)and grandpa (Haze and Vi's great grandpa) arrived Tuesday afternoon. Are you keeping up with this so far? The great grandparents took off, after a great visit, on Thursday morning. Friday night, my stepdad (Haze and Vi's Papa) arrived, and Sunday morning, Nane and Papa will take off, leaving us with the-day-after-Christmas-letdown-feeling in mid July.

I've been thinking a lot this week about how very lucky Haze and Vi are to have such a big, loving, awesome family. I mean, to have great grandparents spry enough to come and visit them is such a rarity - it's practically unheard of! And they have FIVE of them! Four great grandmas - Renie, Mary, Barb and Renee - and one great grandpa, Fred, who love them, call them, play with them and treasure them. And four grandparents who spoil them rotten with visits, presents and best of all, their undivided attention. Top it all off with four uncles who think their little nieces are the bees knees, and you've got two little girls who are lucky indeed.

The Best Days of Our Lives

So they say. Right? These are the salad days, of which I preminsce no return - the days of wine and roses. The days of picnics and pajamas, spit up and sandals, breast milk and best friends. I've created this blog to serve as a chronicle of these, the best (and sometimes the worst) days of our lives; as an online journal for myself; as a virtual baby book for Violet, who, let's face it, won't have half the baby book her older sister does; and as a place for far away family members to visit when they want to see what Hazel and Violet are up to. I have fantasies of looking back on these posts years from now and wondering where the time went, remembering good times and good friends, and little girls who won't be little much longer. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. Long live the salad days!